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Winner of 2007 PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers
Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award Finalist
Winner of the Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work
Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems sent shivers through Vienna’s intellectual circles and directly challenged Ludwig Wittgenstein’s dominant philosophy. Alan Turing’s mathematical genius helped him break the Nazi Enigma Code during WWII. Though they never met, their lives strangely mirrored one another—both were brilliant, and both met with tragic ends. Here, a mysterious narrator intertwines these parallel lives into a double helix of genius and anguish, wonderfully capturing not only two radiant, fragile minds but also the zeitgeist of the era.
“The poetically heightened language . . . the incantatory prose and the stylized metaphysical colloquy . . . make it clear that Levin’s novel is no mere assemblage of biographical transcriptions. We are very much within the mind of an unreliable narrator, one whose dark existential obsessions resonate with the versions of Gödel and Turing she has fashioned.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Three dimensions emerge from the flat page. Her characters and their century come brilliantly, irritably alive.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Very smart first novel . . . a simple work of genius.” — Toronto Globe Mail
“A brainy novel rich in revelation.” — Bloomberg
"Levin constructs a fascinating tale. . . . What’s most impressive here is the elegance and sympathy with which Levin creates the fictional universe that accommodates these men’s mathematical principles, while at the same time mapping a mathematical universe in which fiction can thrive.” — Baltimore Sun
“A fast-reading, deceptively complex book . . . as a detailed, intensely felt character study of two striking figures in the realms of mathematics and philosophy, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is undeniably compelling.” —Richmond Times Dispatch
“Intelligent. . . .Compelling. . . . As Levin alternates between the lives of Turing and Gödel, she delivers a convincing, palpably human portrait of solitary genius.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“Like a lyrical mash-up, Levin interweaves the personal narrative style of her first book with taut prose evocative of Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, creating a deft, if somewhat discordant, novel on the price of mathematical genius. Levin skillfully twists nonfictional accounts of Turing and Godel’s lives and demises into a tale of brainy introspection on the nature of love, knowledge and madness.” —Seed Magazine
“An absolutely wonderful book. Gödel and Turning tried to defy time, and failed, so the only way to bring them back is through the imagination. It requires a very wise and special imagination, with a powerful and quirky mind of her own, to give a plausible portrait of such geniuses. Janna Levin is a gifted stylist and with this compelling book, she has transcended the category of scientists who write books to become simply one of our most interesting contemporary writers.” — Lee Smolin, author of The Life of the Cosmos
“I love the contrast of Turing’s mechanized view of the world with Gödel’s more openended ‘incompleteness.’ A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully imagined book.” —Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams
“A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines is a wonderfully original book. Janna Levin’s compelling narrative artfully straddles the realms of fiction and non-fiction, allowing us to viscerally experience the tortured lives of two towering intellects—Gödel and Turing—while learning how each, in his own way, left a profound imprint on human thought.” —Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe